9/11: For Me, It’s Personal
This Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. This day reopens deep wounds as it is remembered countrywide. Over 6,000 people were injured and 2,977 people died, including 412 first responders who sacrificed their lives trying to preserve the lives of others. Many lives were lost without being able to get last goodbyes from family, friends, and colleagues. As traumatizing as the day was, it was the root of major change in the United States.
The attacks left people feeling a plethora of emotions, including me. Though many were affected throughout the nation, first responders’ accounts of the day are extremely heartbreaking. 9/11 is very personal for me even though I was born 5 years after the fact, mainly because my uncle Jerry Ocasio was a firefighter who was at the scene. I interviewed him and he gave me a description of what that day was like. His recollection of the day really left me at a loss for words. It was his day off and he was sleeping in. All of a sudden, his colleague, in shock, called him telling him to turn on his television.
He said, “I couldn’t believe what I was watching, processing it mentally was extremely difficult.” He and 40 other fearless firefighters – both on and off duty – met at the firefighting academy. They then rushed and made their journey to New York to help. Keep in mind this was all voluntary of those firefighters, they weren’t asked, but when duty calls, they were willing to give up everything to help.
This was no simple task he said, “All the exits leading into New York were closed off and we had to make our way all the way to Bayonne to meet with the coast guard. We ended up going by ship across the Hudson river. No one knew what to expect going in, on the way through the river, all we could see was smoke.” As they got there all that was running through their minds was, “How can we help?”
In his words: “One of the most heartfelt things I saw when I was there, was everyone coming together trying to help and lift each other up.” In a time of disarray, people from all over knew that at a time like this all everyone could do was be there for each other. That day was one he and many others will never forget.
Not only did 9/11 directly impact people on the scene, it inspired many teenagers and young adults to enlist in the military. Personally, it makes me want to serve my country in some way or another. That day lit a fire inside many they hadn’t felt before. Another close family friend, Army veteran Jonathan Soto, who served 4 years in active duty and 4 in the reserves, was deeply moved by 9/11. Mr. Soto was only in 8th grade at the time of these attacks and when he first heard about it he felt almost numb. A complete sadness took over him. I can only imagine being so young and living through that. People who took it upon themselves to dedicate their lives for their country after the attacks inspire me as well.
He had this to say about later enlisting in the military: “I was in 8th grade at the time of the attacks and I can tell you that that day inspired me to join the military. The fact that terrorists were able to come into our country and cause complete chaos made me want to fight back, not just for me, but for my country.”
The events that took place gave a sense of responsibility to many younger citizens. They wanted to fight back against the terrorists and the pain they had caused so many families.
Every year on 9/11 the Tribute in Light is displayed in the sky in remembrance of the attacks on the Twin Towers. I make sure to look out my window every year to show respect, reflect, and honor the lives lost during that time. It’s really hard to process that where those lights are, were once real towers, the most noticeable in New York. As the United States reflects on this day for the twentieth year, it’s important to see how far New York has come. What some thought to be impossible with all the damage done was in fact very probable as New York’s spirit stood completely strong. 9/11 deeply affected my family and, in a way, this extremely important day is a part of my history as well.